Dear Chief Justice of the Housing Court Department Hon. Timothy Sullivan, Deputy Court Administrator for the Housing Court Benjamin Adeyinka, Esq., and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker,
Massachusetts' Governor Baker has declared a State of Emergency due to COVID-19. We demand an immediate moratorium on all evictions in Massachusetts to protect residents with few resources or safety net and to prevent the escalation of the pandemic.
To this end, we request that you continue all cases to litigants in all housing matters until the COVID-19 state of emergency ends. We also respectfully request that the Court vacate all default judgments from March 10th, 2020 - the beginning of Massachusetts' State of Emergency - onward.
Why shut down eviction court during this public health crisis?
- Eviction courts can be crowded with residents waiting for hours for their appointments. For instance, in Boston Housing Court, there are hundreds of people squeezed into a small space without adequate ventilation. This puts residents at risk, and prevents them from practicing the recommended "social distancing" to prevent the spread of the virus.
- Even a person who is ill will feel that they have to go to Housing Court. Otherwise, they will be "defaulted" in court and forcibly removed from their home. In other words, you can’t “self-quarantine” when you’re sick.
- Organizations that Massachusetts residents turn to for help with displacement will become increasingly harder to reach as the virus spreads. Legal systems will be compromised during the crisis. Access to programs that assist with paying back rent and mass informational meetings on residents' rights may have to be postponed or curtailed.
- The stress of eviction court, the stress of threatened displacement will contribute directly to both contracting an illness such as the coronavirus and to its severity if contracted.
- Eviction disrupts a family’s ability to secure heath care and necessary medicines, uprooting daily life, and thus adversely affecting individual families and also facilitating the spread of the virus.